On September 12, 2014, NAOC hosted a social event that was part of the 27th Planetary Congress of the Association of Space Explorers. In addition to distinguished guests from the CAS Office of Lunar Exploration and other research institutes, four former astronauts attended the event. These four astronauts were Zhai Zhigang from China, Christer Fuglesang from Sweden, and Valeri Ryumin and Victor Savinykh from Russia.
The event started with Prof. Yan Jun welcoming the attendees and introducing the facilities and institutes associated with NAOC, including LAMOST, FAST and the Antarctic Astronomy program. After this introduction to NAOC, the attendees were treated to a coffee break where they could talk with the astronauts and other distinguished guests. During the coffee break, the astronauts kindly signed autographs for many of the attendees.
After the coffee break, Christer Fuglesang gave a presentation about his background and path to becoming an ESA astronaut. He described how he studied for a Ph.D. in particle physics and after graduating, went to CERN to work on the ATLAS detector project. While there, he saw an advertisement in a newspaper for candidates to become an astronaut, and he applied. He then described his long selection process and training, which included simulated spacewalks in large pools of water where he could practice assembling components on the International Space Station. He also showed movies and photos from the two times he rode the space shuttle to the International Space Station (ISS), once in 2006 and once in 2009. He said that the ISS is currently used for a lot of research projects, especially in medicine and material science. He even described particle detectors attached to the ISS that can make astronomical observations.
Then Russian Astronaut Valeri Ryumin talked about his space experience. He went to space four times in 1977, 1979, 1980 and 1998 and the total time he spent in space is more than 371 days. In 1973, he joined the Rocket Space Corporation Energia. From 1981 to 1989, Ryumin was flight director for the Salyut-7 space station and the Mir space station. In January 1998, NASA announced Ryumin's selection for the crew of STS-91. Ryumin served aboard STS-91 Discovery (June 2–12, 1998) the 9th and final Shuttle-Mir docking mission, which concluded the joint U.S./Russian Phase I Program.
Mr. Victor Savinykh, also a Russian Astronaut, went to space three times in 1981, 1985 and 1988 and the total time he spent in space is more than 252 days. He was selected to be an astronaut on December 1, 1978. After retiring from being an astronaut, he has worked as Director of the Moscow State University of geographic measurement for many years. He is also the editor-in-chief of the magazine "Russian Space."
Zhai Zhigang is an officer in the People's Liberation Army Air Force and a CNSA astronaut. Zhai Zhigang, along with Liu Boming and Jing Haipeng, was selected for the crew of Shenzhou 7 (神舟七号), with Zhai as commander, which was launched on September 25, 2008. On September 27, 2008, Zhai became the first Chinese Astronaut to perform a spacewalk. During his presentation, a movie showed how the Chinese astronauts were trained for the launch of Shenzhou 7 and how he practiced the spacewalk.
After the individual talks, all the astronauts were invited to participate in a panel discussion about their experiences and activities related to being an astronaut. Members of the audience asked questions and translators assisted in the process. The audience learned a lot from the experiences shared by these famous astronauts.
The four astronauts communicate with the audience
Director of NAOC YAN Jun for the welcome speech
Diector of General Office of Lunar and Deep Space Exploration Center of CAS, LIU Xiaoqun, presents souvenirs to the astrononauts
Chinese Astronaut, ZHAI Zhigang, writes an inscription for NAOC